Thanks for the Trouble

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Thanks for the Trouble Book Poster Image
Intriguing romance with fantasy twist; great for guys, gals.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Greek myth about Orpheus and original Sleeping Beauty story briefly summarized. Some lines of Pablo Neruda poems with translation. Some signs in American Sign Language described. Brief information about the French artist Seurat, pointillism, trompe l'oeil, and other paintings given. Some San Francisco points of interest, including facts about the Legion of Honor art museum, especially its Skinner pipe organ.

Positive Messages

Don't romanticize the past; the best time to be alive is right now, especially for women. If you're lucky, your life stays balanced between past and future; don't get caught up spending too much of your energy leaning to one of those sides. Letting go of someone means letting go of the version of yourself that needed that person; that's why it's so hard. The closest thing we have to magic is change (changing yourself, your life), so keep changing.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Parker Santé, 17, starts out without ambition and without any real friends. He hangs out in hotel lobbies and steals things people accidentally leave behind and justifies it with sophomoric arguments about how they don't really need their luxury items. Zelda (an older teen) is a great role model for being open to life's possibilities and for taking the trouble to really help others. She helps Parker mature into someone who wants to be better. Parker's mother is a strong, loving presence but is mired in the past and exhibits alcoholic tendencies.


A past incident resulted in Parker having an assault charge on his record when he tried to push back against a bully and mentions a leg run over by a car. Some fantasy violence in fairy tale-type stories include mentions of beatings and beheadings and that in the original Sleeping Beauty story she's raped. A fight describes being punched in the face in some detail. Blood drips from an accident victim. A character plans to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge; teens talk occasionally about suicide. An important character dies.


Older teens kiss, undress, and get in bed together in their underwear. It's mentioned afterward that they had sex, but the sex isn't described. Teens talk about who was their "first." They swim naked; no body parts are described. "Wet dream" is used as an analogy. Joking references to the rhythm method of birth control and masochists. Internet pornography mentioned.


Frequent use of "s--t," "ass," "f--k," and their variations. A few uses of "d--k" in name-calling and the body part, "bitch" in friendly banter, "goddamn," "butt," and "pinche" (an insult enhancer in Spanish) once each.


Wide variety of TV shows, video games, mall stores, tech products, alcohol brands mentioned to establish character or mood.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

An adult taking Prozac and Tylenol PM mentioned. A joke mentions bong hits and getting high. Teens drink to excess at a party; number of drinks referenced in chapter titles. Zelda provides champagne and expensive Scotch to teen partygoers. A hangover headache is described. An adult exhibits alcoholic behavior. Beer-bonging a 40 mentioned. Brief mention of teens smoking and of adult smoking in the past.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Thanks for the Trouble is a teen romance with a fantasy twist by the author of We All Looked UpAn extended party scene has teens drinking to excess and an older teen providing champagne and expensive Scotch. There's some kissing, undressing, and getting into bed, followed by a mention that sex happened, but no sex is described. Parker's not much a role model at first, lacking in ambition and stealing things from hotel lobbies. Zelda helps open him up to possibilities, encourages his writing talent, and makes him want to be better. Suicide is an important theme, and an important character dies. Positive messages include how to move on from the past and appreciate the present by finding a balance between past, present, and future.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMomof3mce January 7, 2020

No good

A teenage girl takes her own life and the boy doesn't tell anyone!
Adult Written byming.tuan February 28, 2018


The way tommy writes makes you want to read the book even more. I have read this book three times. It is still one of my favorites. But there are some swearing... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byfemmefatale March 26, 2021

A unique page-turned

I really enjoyed this book, and it was the first time I’ve finished a book in 24 hours in a long time. The characters are relatable and I loved the reference to... Continue reading

What's the story?

Parker Santé, 17, spends most of his time in hotel lobbies, waiting for someone to leave something behind so he can take it for himself. Ever since his father died, not only has Parker been unable to speak, he's also been aimless, drifting along without anything particular to live for. When a mysterious, silver-haired girl leaves behind a huge wad of cash, Parker picks it up and almost takes off with it. But something draws him back to Zelda, whose answers about herself only raise more questions. The two strike a bargain for their futures, with spending the big wad of cash serving as timekeeper. Will either of them find a reason to say THANKS FOR THE TROUBLE before the cash runs out?

Is it any good?

This intriguing romance brings fresh appeal to the boy-meets-girl story with a surprising fantasy twist. The framework of a college-application essay gives author Tommy Wallach (We All Looked Up) the opportunity to ask readers to decide for themselves whether to believe Parker’s story or not. It’s an engaging way to get older teens thinking about applying for college, letting go of the past, what to hope for in the future, and why people are worth taking the trouble to look at beneath the surface.

Narrator Parker is not easy to like at first, but as teens learn more about him, he becomes easy to relate to and root for. His original fairy tales blend the past and present and reinforce our understanding of Parker as a talented writer. Without an ounce of sap, this refreshing, modern, bittersweet love story will appeal to boys and girls alike.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about books and other media such as movies and TV programs that show underage drinking. Does Thanks for the Trouble glamorize drinking?

  • Is the use of strong language and profanity in Thanks for the Trouble realistic? How do you talk among friends? Are there words you avoid using? Why?

  • If you were in charge of college admissions, would you accept Parker based on his essay? Why, or why not? What do you think makes a good application essay?

Book details

Our editors recommend

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate